Most people are aware of the side effects of too much sugar, yet when it comes to their everyday habits, they are not aware of just how much sugar they are consuming.
The sugar intake recommendation according to the FDA should be no more than 10 per cent of your daily calorie intake – that is around 5-6 tsps. of added sugar. Each spoon of sugar equals around 20 calories, so the calories can slowly build up if we do not pay attention to it. Added sugar can be the refined table sugar we add to tea or coffee, or it can be honey, brown sugar or any of the healthier varieties out there in the market.
Our foods like whole grains, fruits or vegetables also contain sugar, but they also have far more benefits. It is very easy to consume large quantities of sugar in beverages because they are hidden. For example, a glass of a popular aerated beverage gives you 23g of sugar which is way more than the recommended intake.
When it comes to cholesterol, many people are also not aware that eating too much sugar can have a negative impact on your lipid health.
There’s growing evidence which shows that, those who consume sugary drinks daily have a greater risk for developing higher levels of unhealthy fats (like LDL cholesterol or triglycerides), which can increase the risk of heart disease.
Get your basics right
Cholesterol comes in two types: low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
HDL is considered “good” cholesterol because it can help get rid of LDL cholesterol, the type that can build up in our arteries and increase the risk of heart disease. HDL actually helps to transport the bad cholesterol to the liver. If the HDL values are higher, it is better. Oxidized LDL increases inflammation and causes damage to the arteries. HDL also alters the chemical composition of LDL, preventing it from becoming oxidized. A healthy active lifestyle helps to increase HDL, so the best way to improve your HDL is to exercise regularly.
Having higher LDL and lower HDL in your blood can mean you are at risk for developing atherosclerosis, a thickening and stiffening of arteries clogged by too much plaque. Poor blood supply to the heart can lead to cardiovascular disease.
Triglycerides are a type of fat, the levels of which increase after eating too many calories. If the body does not need the calories, it stores the excess as fat and uses it as and when needed. If you regularly consume excess calories along with a sedentary lifestyle, you may be at risk for higher triglycerides.
The cholesterol sugar connection
Does eating foods high in fat increase cholesterol? Most people opt for low fat foods thinking fat is the only culprit when it comes to their lipid numbers. But that’s not how it really works.
Our body itself makes a lot of cholesterol daily. So what triggers the production of cholesterol? The surprising answer is “Sugar”. Any type of sugar – the added sugars or the ones present in foods trigger cholesterol production if the foods are simple refined products like bread, pasta etc. When sugar shoots up in the blood after we eat, it triggers release of insulin. Insulin is a fat storage hormone, which causes excess calories that are converted to fat to be stored as cholesterol and triglycerides.
Risks of too much cholesterol
Cholesterol is one of the most important risk factors for atherosclerosis and heart attack and stroke. People who added more sugar to their diet in the form of sugary drinks had lower levels of good cholesterol and higher levels of triglycerides. Managing your cholesterol is extremely important, and at least once a year, checkups are extremely vital for an early detection. Cholesterol abnormalities, body weight, and diabetes are all interrelated leading to a host of issues, which is broadly termed as metabolic syndrome.
Lifestyle factors that reduce risk
Experts say sugar intake significantly influences our cholesterol levels. Learn to read food labels and check for hidden sugars. Sugar is present in many different forms like refined sugar, sucralose, molasses, and fructose and so on.
Eating a lot of vegetables and healthy fats will help to get the lipid numbers under control. WHO recommends getting 5-6 colors of vegetables and fruits on your plate.
It is important to get sufficient exercise. A sedentary lifestyle is the main culprit for many of the lifestyle issues. Make sure you get 10000 steps daily.
Maintain healthy weight
Losing as little as 5% weight can trigger a host of benefits. There are many factors, which need to be taken care of to reduce cholesterol, and controlling body weight is one of the most important ways to do so.